Magazine article UN Chronicle

Violence to Groups and Individuals

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Violence to Groups and Individuals

Article excerpt

Violence to groups and individuals

War, aggression, armed conflict between and within nations, the use of resources and talents for destructive purposes, and the atomic threat to the survival of mankind are not the only forms of violence that preclude social progress. Violence and social regression occur whenever basic human rights be ignored, whenever respect for the dignity and value of the human person is denied. Entire communities, specific groups and individuals are the victims.

Racial discrimination violates the equality of all human beings in dignity and rights. Torture, summary executions and disappearances violate security, liberty and the right to life. Starvation, another violation of the right to life, is also one of the evils and obstacles to social progress which all States and international organizations have an obligation to eliminate under the Declaration on Social Progress and Development.

Racism and apartheid

A political system based on racial segregation is intrinsically violent and implies the use of violence by the authorities who strive to maintain it. The repression in South Africa against the opponents of apartheid is severe and multiform. Arrests, detentions, torture, bannings, executions of political prisoners and deaths while incarcerated continue to occur frequently, along with the destruction of families through the application of "pass-laws" and the forced removal of people into "homelands".

South Africa's new constitution, brought into force in September 1984, was widely seen as an attempt to reinforce the apartheid system. It excludes the African majority population from Parliament and, according to the Special Committee against Apartheid, "entrenches white domination, gives illusory power to so-called coloured and people of Asian origin, and creates a potentially dictatorial (white) executive by entrenching one party domination and conferring extraordinary powers to the President".

Ethnic conflicts

Violence among communities of differing ethnic background, culture, religion and language has surged in many parts of the world. Minorities have resorted to violent means to gain more autonomy or self-determination. National authorities have sometimes responded with reforms, more often with repression, and on occasion with a little bit of both.

Some ethnic groups have lost the struggle to change the distribution of power, and have been decimated or exiled. Others have won, then imposed or shared new power. Violence to change the status quo has been used by groups which felt alienated, as well as by groups seeking to impose their beliefs, perceptions of the right social order, or economic interests.

Religion appears to be a strong factor in several current civil wars and conflicts. Only a few religious movements in recent years have advocated violence as a means to propagate, defend or impose their views, but some some resorted to inflammatory rhetoric which has undermined the spirit of tolerance necessary for peaceful coexistence of many creeds.


Refugees are victims of violence both between and within nations. In addition to individual refugees and asylum-seekers, there are mass movements of people forced to seek refuge in a land other than their own. Many of these population movements assume the dimensions of mass exodus.

Estimates put the number of refugees currently at 10 million, compared with 2 million 10 years ago. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports some negative trends in the response of the international community to the refugees. …

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